Say goodbye to the little hardware shop that has helped build Bexley North.
Blackwell’s Bexley North Hardware closes its doors at the end of June after 58 years of trading at the same shop at 103 New Illawarra Road.
For the owner Peter Blackwell, 54, and his wife Karen it is the start of a relaxing new era of retirement.
But it is end of era for Bexley North which is losing its own hardware shop and its personalised customer service.
Peter’s father, Ronald opened the family business in the late 1960s and Peter bought it from his father 21 years ago.
“We don’t have any kids and my nephews and nieces aren’t interested in taking it over,” Peter said.
“A small hardware shop is not as viable as it used to be.”
Peter has seen a lot of changes in Bexley North over the years.
“The area has an ageing population and now the elderly are passing away or going into retirement villages,” he said.
“The new people moving are either in too much debt or are not doing their own handy-work but getting someone else to do it.
“Where the older generation did it themselves the new generation doesn’t know what they are doing.”
Peter said the attitude of some of his bigger customers, particularly the local schools, has also changed when it comes to supporting small businesses.
“We used to have a lot of accounts with the schools,” he said. “But the new principals always tell their maintenance people to go to Bunnings.
“I know we are still officially on the books with the schools. We are are still asked to source specialist supplies. They have always had good customer service here. Otherwise, they go to Bunnings.
“I don’t know why the government is encouraging them to do it just to keep the big boys going.”
Peter said he has three categories of customers: the top end with project managers covering major projects; the developers building units, and people building their own homes.
“The only people we have had trouble with payment are the developers. But I never have trouble with payment from the top end project managers or the home handymen.
“This one little shop has supplied hardware to some major projects including the M5, the Port Botany container wharf expansion and the upgrade of railway bridges at Bardwell Park, Kingsgrove and Narwee.
“Sometimes a project manager would ring and ask for something that could not be sourced anywhere or that they needed in a hurry and I would do it.
“My poor little Toyota Dyna was run into the ground.”
Peter has struggled through hard times before.
Six years ago he was seriously injured when he was hit by a car. He was in hospital for 108 days and rehab for another 30 days before he could go home.
“The doctors thought I’d never be able to walk again,” he said.
His wife Karen had to run the business for two years but Peter was able to recover and make it back to working full-time.
While he won that battle, he said the fight with big business has defeated him.
“When the new Bunnings opened at Kingsgrove I thought we would lose about 30 per cent of our clients but we lost 60 per cent,” he said.
“It’s disappointing that rather than supporting small business, people will go to the big guys
“For Bexley North it means that personal service will be lost.”